5 Ways Your Feelings Fail You (And Keep You From Living Up To Your Potential)

Your feelings are not your friend if you want a future filled with good fortune and fulfillment. Said another way…follow your feelings and you’re f’d.

Most of us aren’t aware of how many decisions we make each day, based on how we feel in the moment.

Do you hit the snooze button or get out of bed right away? Order your coffee black, or get a coffee-flavored milk shake? Go to the gym after work, or negotiate with yourself about how you feel, and then drive home?

We make dozens, if not hundreds of little decisions every day. Each decision itself might seem insignificant. But, when you add them up over a month, year, or a lifetime, those little decisions shape your life and legacy.

If you’re not conscious of the choices you make, you’ll default to how you feel at the moment. You won’t make the logical choice. You’ll make the choice that (temporarily) feels good.

If you want to suck the marrow out of life, rather than just having things suck, take charge of your choices, no matter how you feel when you make them.

Ever notice how fast fear and self-doubt take over your head and you start making up excuses for why you shouldn’t say something or do something? We hold ourselves back in the smallest, most mundane moments every day, and that impacts everything. If you break this habit of hesitating and you find the courage to “take some kind of action,” you’ll be astonished by how fast your life changes.

Mel Robbins, The 5 Second Rule

Sometimes it’s helpful to talk about your feelings, such as when you feel sad from the loss of someone, hurt because a friend stabbed you in the back, or angry after someone disrespected your spouse or your child.

But those are the rare circumstances where feelings steer you in the right direction. Most of the time, feelings cause you to trade short-term comfort for long-term success and fulfillment.

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Your feelings fail you. Here are five reasons how…

1. Your Feelings Make You Act Like a Child

Think back to being a kid. Did you ever feel like cleaning up your room, taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or eating your vegetables?

I bet there were many times when your parents asked you to do something, and you put up a fuss because you didn’t feel like doing what they asked you to do.

Sometimes, they probably even raised their voices or threatened consequences if you didn’t do what you were supposed to do.

Parents have to hold their kids accountable to doing the stuff they don’t feel like doing, or they won’t do it.

The desire to do what you feel like doing never goes away. Even as an adult, you’ll be tempted. But grown-ups don’t think or behave like kids do.

Grown-up: to grow toward or arrive at full stature or physical or mental maturity; to stop thinking or behaving in a childish way


Children think and behave based on how they feel.

Grown-ups set their feelings aside, and do whatever needs to be done to move closer to their goals.

A parent has the authority with their kids to get them to do something, even when they don’t feel like it.

As a grown-up, you need to parent yourself. You need to make yourself do what you don’t feel like doing.

You don’t get a participation ribbon or a gold star for getting up on time, eating a healthy breakfast, going to the gym, or being kind to your spouse. I know it’s popular to post about that stuff, and then hashtag it #adulting.

But, grown-ups don’t need a pat on the back to do what grown-ups are supposed to do. Sometimes you just need to suck it up and do it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re tired, scared, nervous, or feel like you don’t have the skills. You’re a grown-up, so you do what needs to be done.

Guys need to man up, and ladies often need to woman up.

Follow your feelings and you’ll make choices like a child. The world needs more grown ups, not just “legal adults.”

2. Your Feelings Trick You Into Staying the Same

Except for the few number of non-negotiable activities you do each day, anything that’s out-of-the-ordinary, novel, or new leaves you feeling uncomfortable.

Your subconscious mind loves the comfort of repetition and doing what it already knows to do. Your body loves the comfort of sitting still and conserving energy.

Consciously, you want to live the life of something better. But to get there, you have to do some stuff you might not enjoy, or that might make you nervous, or that might require you to sweat and feel some emotional or physical pain.

Opportunities come about, not as loud, urgent, obvious emergencies you see with your eyes and hear with your ears.

They come as quiet, subtle, whispers to your heart. I think that sometimes, those subtle nudges are coming straight from God, who knows the desires of your heart.

He knows what you’ve been praying for, and the little whisper is a nudge to answer your prayer. He’s not going to give you the body, marriage, business, or career you’ve been praying for if you’re unwilling to do the work. But He might be showing you how to you can get it if you are willing.

Those sparks of ideas and intuition are your answer to the prayers.

He whispers,

“You could eat a chicken salad instead of a sandwich and chips,” knowing how much you want to lose weight.

“Why don’t you introduce yourself to her?” He asks, in response to your constant prayers to meet someone.

He prompts you, “Go ahead and ask your friend to meet you for coffee and learn about your business,” knowing how much you’d love to grow your home-based business.

“There’s nothing new on television. Why don’t you go for a walk?” He asks, in response to your prayers for help to deal with your stress.

He nudges you and says, “You know, that personal trainer would love to help you out. Why don’t you ask for help?” after your continued wishes to get back on an exercise program.

Unfortunately, rather than taking action, most people think about it for a few seconds, and then their feelings rush in. Then they justify why they’d be better off not taking action.

“You’re just going to be hungry again later if you eat a salad, and you don’t like salads anyway. You’ll feel better eating the sandwich and chips. They taste so good!”

“You’d better not introduce yourself to her. She might not be interested. Better to be safe than sorry.”

“Your friend probably won’t be interested, and you’ll just feel embarrassed if you ask and she says no. If you don’t ask, you won’t feel embarrassed.”

On and on it goes.

Imagine if you meet God one day, and ask Him, “How come you never answered my prayers?”

He’ll probably say, “I did. I showed you the way every day. How come you made up excuses each time I made a suggestion? Do you think I would have suggested something you couldn’t handle?”

According to Mel Robbins, in her New York Times bestselling book, The 5-Second Rule, you have about five seconds before your feelings fill your mind with excuses why you shouldn’t do what your heart suggests you should.

The key is to act before you feel.

“But, but, but Tom, you don’t understand. It’s so HARD!”

Is it hard, or does it feel hard?

The people who do the same things you want to do , feel the same way you feel. They take action anyway. They act before they can talk themselves out of it.

Your feelings would have you do the same things you’ve always done, so you get what you’ve always gotten.

If you want something different, you need to just say “Screw it!” And then do it.

3. Your Feelings Make You Lazy

Your subconscious mind wants to feel “comfortable.”

That goes for physical comfort too. That’s why working out a minimum of four days per week is on my list of non-negotiable activities. I don’t particularly enjoy exercise. I’d rather not sweat and need another shower. Heck, I’d probably save a lot of money if I didn’t need gym clothes.

I can come up with all sorts of excuses to not exercise, but the fact of the matter is, when it’s time to go to the gym, I put on my shoes and go. There’s no other option.

Actually, I believe that 20+ years of consistent training and workouts has affected other areas of my life. Even when I’m at the gym, I still have the opportunity to half-ass it. But, then I remind myself that if I start allowing myself to half-ass my workouts, I’ll soon be half-assing other areas of my life.

Overcoming my default setting of being lazy takes repeated effort and intention, and it will for you as well.

Your body wants to be lazy. It would prefer to sit rather than stand, or drive a car rather than walk. And it certainly would prefer to avoid the discomfort of exercise.

Your brain doesn’t want to think. It would prefer to ask someone else for an answer instead of thinking through it yourself.

So you have to force your brain and body to do the work, even when they don’t want to. Even when being lazy feels so much more comfortable.

This quote from Napoleon Hill gets passed around quite a bit.

Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.

Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

Taken literally, you might believe you can sit on your chair, think good and positive thoughts, set your intentions, and the universe will hand deliver the body, spouse, career, and home you’ve been dreaming of.

In my opinion, the far more important quote from Napoleon Hill is this one.

Do not wait; the time will never be “just right.” Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.

Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

When faced with an opportunity, you’ll feel like you should wait. Wait for the time to be right. Wait until you learn more. Wait until you get a sign from the stars. Wait for your family to be more supportive. Wait for someone else to do the work for you.

Don’t wait. Don’t be fooled by how you feel. Just start.

4. Your Feelings Lead to Assumptions

Last season, one of the pitchers for the Minnesota Twins, and his fiance (now his wife) lived in one of the other penthouse units on our floor. Other than a little small talk in the elevator, I didn’t get to know him.

Yet, each time we’d part ways, I briefly feel the urge to get to know him better and invite the two of them for dinner. Then, within a few seconds, I’d come up with a list of reasons why they probably wouldn’t be interested.

“Who am I to ask him to connect? He probably gets invitations all the time. I’m sure they’d rather spend time with the other players. I don’t follow baseball that much anymore, so we probably wouldn’t have much to talk about.”

The season passed, and I never invited them to get together. They left for the offseason.

As it turned out, one of the other units on our floor opened up before this season, and they moved into it. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. Last night, they joined us and another couple for dinner.

It was a fantastic night, they were fun to hang out with, we got to take them to Milkjam Creamery, the best ice cream spot in Minneapolis, and we had plenty to talk about outside of baseball.

I share that story for a couple reasons. First, I want you to know that even though I’m writing this article, I still let my own feelings lead me astray sometimes. Second, I wanted to share how such a simple thing like an invitation to dinner could lead to such a giant missed opportunity when you let your feeling fail you.

One of the biggest assumptions I make is that I’m not good enough for another person’s time. It’s an assumption I have to check repeatedly. I might feel inferior, but I know in my heart that I can always offer wisdom and insight to someone else. I just have to override my feelings at times.

As I taught our sons, when you assume, it makes an ass out of you and me. Sometimes I need a reminder of my own advice.

5. Your Feelings Keep You From Freedom

Your habits build or destroy your body, mold your relationships, develop or sabotage your career, and grow or kill your business. If some areas of your life suck right now, change your habits.

Why don’t more people change their habits? They prefer the feeling of comfort from life as it is, over the feeling of uncertainty from life as it could be.

How you feel in the moment is almost never aligned with your goals and your dreams. If you only act when you feel like it, you will never get what you want.

Mel Robbins, The 5 Second Rule

Here’s the most exciting part of all this.

The pattern of acting (or not acting) based on how you feel is a habit. It’s a routine you develop over time.

The pattern of acting on instinct and intuition, and ignoring how you feel, is also a habit. You can replace the pattern of acting on your feelings with the pattern of acting on your intuition.

The more you act on your intuition, the more of a habit you build in your brain. Eventually, your feelings will be irrelevant. You act before your feelings can talk you out of it.

What kind of freedom would you experience if you:

  • stopped eating what feels good in the moment, and started eating what breathes life and fitness into your body?
  • got out of bed when the alarm goes off and did something productive?
  • stopped spending so much time on social media, comparing your life to others, and invested the time in activities to grow your business?
  • set your phone down and had a face-to-face conversation with your spouse or kids every day?
  • hired a trainer instead of buying new hunting gear?
  • tell your boss what you need instead of being frustrated she doesn’t give it to you?

The list is endless. When you act against your feelings or act before your feelings control you, the world opens the door to many new opportunities. And those opportunities bring physical, financial, emotional and personal freedoms you’ll never experience otherwise.

Take Action (Even if You Don’t Feel Like It)

As I mentioned at the beginning, you probably don’t realize how many little choices you make each day, based on how you feel at that moment.

Following your feelings will be the kiss of death for your dreams.

I hope this struck a chord and it helps you reconsider some of the choices you make this week. We all have moments where our feelings get more power than they should. And this article was as much for you as it was for me.

If you think this will help someone else, please share it.